Regardless of what year you are in college, you have probably, on more than one occasion, had this thought go through your mind: “What am I doing with my life?”
No, I don’t mean the whole existential crisis that I hope you have much less frequently, I mean literally wondering what you are going to do with your life after college. Most people pick their majors based on personal interests, but very few of us know exactly what we are going to do after we graduate. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of manual that contained all the different kind of jobs you can get with your major?
Gina Sawaya, an EcoAmbassador and junior here at W&M often has these thoughts in relation to her Environmental Science and Policy major. “Personally, as an Environmental Science major, I don’t know what kinds of jobs I can get after I graduate,” says Sawaya. This year, as an EcoAmbassador, she has had the opportunity to develop a resource for students like herself to explore the variety of careers available in sustainability and environmental science. Through the Cohen Career Center, Gina has developed a website called “The Future of Green Careers” where she posts podcasts of interviews with W&M alums who have green careers.
The Future of Green Careers website
For the past semester and a half, Gina has been reaching out to W&M alums through alumni groups on LinkedIn and conducting interviews in person, over the phone, and through Skype. She then edits down the recordings into 10 minute podcasts that are posted on her website. She has interviewed people in a variety of careers: environmental consulting, science communications, green product development, advocacy, and education. What has been most surprising to her is that most of these jobs don’t necessarily require higher degrees, a fact that has been comforting as she begins to weigh her options for post-grad life.
“I think it can be really scary for people not knowing what they want to do.”
Gina’s interviews have incorporated people who are at a variety of stages in their careers. Those earlier on in their careers understand the predicament of soon-to-be-graduates who are scrambling to figure out what to do next. Many alumni have given the insight of how green careers have evolved in recent history, noting that when they graduated, the only jobs available in environmental science outside of academia were park ranger positions. But today, everyone is interested in finding ways to incorporate sustainability into their businesses, and now ‘green careers’ can be found almost anywhere. This sudden need for green careers took some of Gina’s interviewees by surprise. During her interview with Paula Jasinski she asked about her transition from being marine scientists to being a science communications specialist and small business owners. Sawaya says, “I asked, ‘did you ever think you would become a small business owner?’ And Paula replied, ‘if you had told me that when I graduated from VIMS that I was one day going to be a pioneer in this new field, I wouldn’t have believed you.’”
From those who graduated in 2013, to those who graduated in the 70s or 80s, everyone Gina has interviewed has been enthusiastic about being involved in the project. She has found everyone she has contacted through the alumni networks to be very receptive to her and interested in helping her in any way that they can. Gina admits that through conducting these informal interviews, she has received a job offer or two. When asked about how to find these kinds of contacts by other students, Gina says that networking is crucial. She recommends setting up informational interviews and challenging yourself to go to one a week over the summer; these kinds of interviews are invaluable to helping you figure out what careers are out there and how you make career connections. If you’re nervous or not quite sure of how they should go, listen to Gina’s podcasts to get a feel of what kinds of questions you can ask.
“You can’t just expect people to hand you a pile of contacts for you to reach out to. Make a LinkedIn profile, it takes 5 min. Then join W&M alumni groups where you can easily search for people who have job titles that you are interested in.”
Gina has loved being an EcoAmbassador and all the unexpected takeaways that she has gained through the program. It has provided her with a space in which she can sit down once a month with other EcoAmbassadors and seriously discuss sustainability, something she rarely gets in day-to-day conversations. She’s had the opportunity to teach herself how to use a number of new technologies to develop the W&M website and edit her podcasts, and the program has been a tremendous learning experience for how best to conduct interviews. Most importantly, acting as an EcoAmbassador and investigating green careers has opened her eyes to all the opportunities that lie ahead of her as she begins to explore post-grad opportunities.
Want to learn more about EcoAmbassadors and Green Careers?
- Apply to be an EcoAmbassador for the 2016-2017 school year and get credit for doing cool sustainability projects like this
- Check out the Career Center website where you can find a lot of cool links to help you explore a lot of different careers
- Sign up for email updates from the Career Center to stay up to date on job opportunities, presentation, and workshops
- Create a LinkedIn account and join the W&M Alumni Groups